Tag Archives: Horror book reviews

Psycho Novel Review

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Psycho Novel Buy Link

Introduction
I just finished reading Robert Bloch’s Psycho, which the movie from the 1960’s is based upon. This book itself is based upon the Ed Gein murders, which was a much used source of inspiration for many other movies, books and tv shows throughout the 60’s and 80’s, not to mention The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I first saw the original Psycho movie in the 1990’s and loved it. Sure, it had its problems, but it was fun. The remake came out in 1998, which I hated, even at twelve years old. Although I am not pictured in it, because I was taking the photo, when I went to Universal Studios Florida as a child, we got a pic of the house from the film. I also went to Bates Elementary School in Salem, Massachusetts. Which, one of my principals looked a lot like Anthony Perkins. So to say I haven’t loved this film for years would be an understatement.

The book was originally written in 1959, and took only one year for it come come to the big screen, which would be in 1960. The impact of this movie would be felt for generations to come, as it gave birth to the slasher genre and without it, we wouldn’t have all the fantastic 80’s movies, like Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm St without it. While the movie is still more spoken about than the novel is, I am going to review this anyways. So without further ado, here is Robert Bloch’s novel, Psycho!

Synopsis
A young woman steals $40,000 dollars from her boss and set out to find a new life, when she stops at the Bates’ Motel. Little does she know what is going on in such a secluded place out here on the new highway and the ramifications of her actions result in a unexpected twist!

Characters
The characters are developed slightly better than the movie, but still not enough to care about in this novel, which is a shame too, because the additional information of the characters in the novel make the movie a lot more interesting.

Dialogue
Fine as is. As I always point out, dialogue is hard to screw up.

Prose
Nothing horrible, but it has some flaws like misplaced expository aspects within, but otherwise, just fine.

Subtext/Themes
If anything about this book needs to be said, it is how this is really more relevant than ever before, given the Millennial male is a typical momma’s boy.

Conclusion
The novel isn’t bad, but it lacks the suspense of the movie. Robert was better than a lot of writers in his time frame, but this book isn’t the best example of this. Psycho is just mediocre compared to what people think about the movie and it is hard to imagine this book being so lucky as to create a movie so soon, when a lot of other books have taken longer to grace the silver screen. The twist is given away by chapter 10 or 11 and it is a downhill ride from there that ever even had an ascent. It could of ended a whole 4 chapters earlier than it did and might of salvaged itself, but it didn’t and it only made reading this to the end even more tedious, which is a shame, given it is such a short book. All of the movie’s iconic moments are there, accept non of Hitchcock’s suspense is there to make it worthwhile, nor is the line “We all go a little mad sometimes”. The tension doesn’t exist, the writing is only ok, but it is still a decent read.

3 out of 5.

The Exorcist Book Review

INTRODUCTION
The Exorcist is one of those iconic movies that no matter when you were born, you probably heard about it. The movie was so intense for the time period that it is claimed it sent people reeling from the cinema in droves, which is believable, given no audience prior to had seen such atrocious scenes laid out before them. Night of the Living Dead was one such film of its timeframe in 1968, but by 1973, the film landscape had changed so vastly that Night of the Living Dead just seemed tame in comparison. Still to this day, few movies with more balls have been made. Can you imagine forced pedo-sapphic incest happening on screen today? Nope and this is why this film is still considered legendary. Having first seen this film in the 90’s, I thought it was tame. I honestly hate anything religious, especially religious horror, because the idea of possession is so mentally absurd, that I can’t suspend my disbelief to believe it is happening. Unlike Freddy, which we know isn’t believed by idiots, we can easily suspend disbelief. Regardless, I decided all these years later to give the book a go and this is my thoughts on Blatty’s iconic novel.

SYNOPSIS
A young Hollywood actress’ daughter becomes “possessed” by a “demon” and you guessed it, an exorcism happens.

CHARACTERS
The only thing less developed then the 12 year old lead in this book is the supporting cast. Most are just there with nothing overly interesting about them. Karras and Lt. Kinderman are the only interesting characters in this novel as with the movies.

PROSE
It’s alright, but it isn’t better than most New York Times bestselling books out there. Blatty had his moments, but it isn’t overly painful to read like Game of Thrones is, either.

SUBTEXT/THEMES
Thematically the book deals with mental illness, religion, belief and other “fun” concepts, but subtext is pretty non-existent, minus one Youtuber who pointed out that the movie had great subtext for sexual abuse. Sadly, while I agree with it, the point of view and how this book is written, along with how the movie goes, pretty much refutes that. Blattly himself even said he didn’t intend for it that way. So, sadly, possession in both the movie and book are quit literal.

CONCULSION
Hardly the worse book I’ve ever read, but it seems more like a parody of the movie. I mean, Regan is a dork, red head kid and the iconic scenes of the movie don’t register the same in the book, they seem weird and don’t fit. Calling the kids rags, is laughable and a horrible nickname. Everything people love about the movie, in this book, seems more mocking in tone, which was clearly not the intent. Mind you this book is 40 years old, along with the movie, but the movie, while I loathe it, holds up better. If you really want to give it a go, feel free to, but otherwise, much like how the book was received prior to a lucky chance appearance by Blattly on a talk show in the 1970’s which catapulted it to fame, I think it is better ignored.

3 out of 5

Heffalumps and Woozles: The Devil Crept in Book Review

INTRODUCTION
     I really had high hopes for this author. I did a Google search looking to see what the modern landscape offered for new authors and most things yielded surprisingly little, which is shocking, given one Amazon search yields millions. Ania showed up on a list, along with Mylo Carbia. I had hopes for Ania, but Mylo seemed more like a waste of time. My thoughts weren’t entirely unfounded, but sadly, they we’re not entirely accurate, either. So let us take a look at the book on a deeper level.

SYNOPSIS
     Two cousins, best friends, live in a small town called Deer Valley. It’s a weird place, ala Stephen King and Joe Hill, but there is something more afoot, something evil, perhaps and it isn’t long before both find themselves in for the fight of their lives.

CHARACTERS
     We are treated to one, really good developed character. Two piss poorly developed characters through too much told back story, The rest are, well, pretty much just cunts to elicit sympathy from the reader. Alcoholic abusive stepdaddy, cliché I don’t believe my child mom, The douchebag older brother, think Buzz in Home Alone, Kindly old convenience store man and an aunt with nothing interesting about her. Stevie is the main focus and he is built well. I like him as a character. Jude is slightly more relatable, if you were ever the kind of child that marched to the beat of your own drum, which I did, but sadly, Jude wasn’t much developed past that and pretty much just labeled a nuisance for such.I’m not going to discuss the other two characters, because I would give too much away, in case you still want to read it.

PROSE
     When she isn’t bogging us down with backstory, she can be pretty decent, albeit, sparse writer. She reminds me more of Stephen King, but not as evocative as King, in terms of imagery. I think the biggest problem I have is with this being professionally done novel, with an editor, who is clearly inept. A running theme is “But” starting a sentence, when the last sentence didn’t need to end. Sometimes, you see the sentence as it should have been written, with just the “but” being the bridge of the sentence with or without comma. The word Tic for a mannerism, is spelled Tick throughout. Add in a few awkward analogies and it makes it seem like they rushed to print or the editor, as I said, was too inept. I’m not going to fault her here, because she is Polish, so English may be her second language and for the fact it isn’t her native tongue, she shows a lot of competency.

SUBTEXT
     There is none, except for some autobiographical writing. Such as a woman immigrating from Poland and the fear of being a foreigner, a mention of an inability to write a romance novel, which if you read the acknowledgements, you will see the link to her and not to mention, I think there was fear about being a new mom, strewn throughout.

CONCLUSION
     If she can improve the imagery of the world she is building, heighten up the suspense to actually make it scary, evenly build the characters, fix the few flaws with the style or find a better editor and pull back that exposition dump, she is well on track to actually being the next Stephen King, as opposed to Mylo Cabina, who pretty much called herself that. Outside of these few technical flaws, my only gripe with the book comes down to being able to call the entire ending by page 50 and the fact she has two narratives going back to back by the middle of the book, which wasn’t needed at all. It would have been better to perhaps made the child birth scene a prologue and stuck to one narrative, which, even with the bog of backstory, to build up Jude, would of made the pace of the book move faster. Still, I bought three of her other books on Kindle and plan to pick up a couple others, because I really feel she has a lot of potential. Either way, she is worth watching to see how she grows as a writer.

     3 out of 5

Kageoween: I’m Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

INTRODUCTION
     What you get when you cross Goosebumps with Dexter? You get Dan Well’s I’m Not a Serial Killer.

     You may have heard of this book, a movie was made back in 2016, staring Christopher Lloyd. It was an independent film and currently watchable on Youtube for 2.99 if you want to give it a go. I haven’t seen it yet and probably won’t, because of this book.

     For better or worse, here we go…

STORY
     A young man is haunted and tormented by his thoughts of being a serial killer, his parents are split up, his sister is living her life, he is a pariah, he has one friend, he is obsessed with serial killers and he is friends with a kindly old couple. Everything is mostly normal in John Wayne Cleaver’s world, minus the fact that a serial killer is on the loose!

CHARACTERS
     The characters are a lot shallower than an actual psychopath, let me just say that.

     John Cleaver, because I refuse to say his full banal name, is the most developed character of them all, but still a shallow puddle of a character. I could identify with some of his personality, because I enjoyed horror growing up, I wrote horror growing up and also read a lot about serial killers myself. I also was a fan of Marilyn Manson, among other out there musicians, I loved the Undertaker as a wrestler, I had toy caskets and I absolutely loved villains like Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, Darth Vader, The Emperor, Lex Luthor and also Hannibal Lector, the reason I got into psychology to begin with, as some of my personal favorites. My parents never ran a funeral home, though. Yes, the idea does tend to occur to you, with all the love for the macabre that one isn’t quite right in the head and you might be very strange human indeed. I mean, who watches the opening scene to Children of The Corn and wants to see more? I did, but that’s beside the point. Regardless, John Cleaver is more than normal, he just obsesses over small things like being a killer because he is an INFJ or possibly an autistic, not because he is a killer, because a serial killer wouldn’t care if he or she was one. You could argue he is an unreliable narrator, I mean, it is 2017 America within the book and the damn town has payphones. Regardless, if he is supposed to be interesting, he could struggle a bit more with right and wrong and the plight of possibility, this doesn’t even scratch the surface. I know because I’ve created stories like this, which has infinity more depth than Dan Wells has created.

     The Mom is the second best developed character who apparently is an empath, albeit, expressed piss poorly. She cares about her kids but cannot understand the weirdness with John. She causes a lot of fights and we get to understand some of the rest from John’s exposition. How much of that is trustful when he is running around saying he is a serial killer, is beyond me, though.

     That is pretty much it for developed characters. Other barley worthwhile to note characters are the aunt, sister, his friend who uses 90’s slang in 2017, his love interest, The obvious Serial Killer, who is obvious and his elderly neighbors. Oh yeah, and his shitty psychologist that diagnosis John wrong and doesn’t seem like a real psychologist.

PROSE
     Barebones, wonky and uneven throughout the whole book. Most the book is built developing his character and not well, over building suspense Dan really shows a talent for not knowing what he is doing here. He describes no one. I first thought, maybe that is showing he is devoid of a personal bent, but nope, he can describe hair and clothes piss poorly and doesn’t care to develop other characters through showing. Clearly Dan isn’t a people person and that is fine, but could you at least be inductive enough to realize that and make up for it? I used to write a similar style, but mine was because I knew that the audience, was most likely going to come up with their own version anyways, so let them. I do my best not to do that now a days and I think Dan should learn to as well, since we don’t need group of people, looking like they walked out of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

     Never mind the fact it has awkward segways, no tension until the end, right up to a piss poor “climax”

SUBTEXT
     There isn’t any in this book outside of what it is like to live with autism, since John, regardless of his semi typical nature, seems to have a lot of the hallmarks of an autistic.

CONCLUSION
     This book seems like it was written in the 1990’s and was shelved or shopped around until it was published in 2010, when Dan finally found a blind editor, or was able to bypass one, and push this book through. The fact is, it is highly dated and this book doesn’t work in a post columbine world. This kid could and would have been red flagged anytime pass 1999. Just look at what happened to Parkland, a weird kid shot up his school, but he was red flagged innumerable times, the FBI was just too inept to take the kids threat seriously, yet Dan’s character just waltzes around, sending up “signals”, whilst everyone around acts as if their fucks have taken the day off. Factor in the aspect of it being derivative of other, better, more successful works and it makes this book seem even weaker in comparison.

     Still, the best thing I could say about this is that it reminded me of all those, in some cases bad, young adult books I used to read back in the day, like Goosebumps or Fear Street and for that, I will give it an extra star, but the rest of it isn’t worth the time and effort.

     If you want a nostalgia pop, this is right for you, no matter how badly. If you want a good book, skip this!

     2 ½ out of 5 stars

Kageoween: Dracula Book Review

INTRODUCTION

     Bram’s Stoker’s magnum opus, Dracula is 121 years old this year and has been read, re-read and passed on from generation to generation as the granddaddy of all horror works. It has been ripped off, in the 1920’s, with Nosferatu. Bram himself, took elements of Carmilla and incorporated it into his work and a reference to that is included in the deleted chapter of Dracula, the short story called Dracula’s Guest. It has been made into umpteen dozen flicks, starting with Dracula in 1930’s, the Hammer films of the 1970’s and a remake from 1992 by Francis Ford Coppola and many more into the 2000’s. It’s safe to say this Iconic bad-ass won’t be going away anytime soon and he will continue to inspire for generations to come.

     How does the book hold up in our modern world? Let’s find out!

SYNOPSIS

     October 11thDracula is an espitsoly work, meaning it is told through letters, journals and other similar tropes. You have 4 main characters, plus two villains. The protagonist are Lucy Westerna, Mina Harker, Johnathan Harker, Dr. Van Helsing and Arthur. The antagonist are Dracula and his servant Renfeild.

     Our story opens with Johnathan Harker siting in a restaurant, enjoying some chicken and paprika dish, which he refers to as thirsty, which, is already brilliant before we’re even out the gate. John is a solicitor for Dracula, come to close a deal so the count can move to London and enjoy the beauty of 18th century England. On his journey, Harker continually runs into fantastic use of foreboding and tension building. Harker, a subtle atheist, which we soon find out, doesn’t quite understand the superstition of the town’s people, who give him multiple gifts for protection, on his way to Count Dracula’s castle. Garlic, a crucifix and typical anti-vampire devices. Memo-how the hell are the towns people so hip to fighting off vampires, but Dracula, in his weakened state, still lives to instill fear in the village?

     Once he has made his way to Dracula’s castle, we’re introduced to some, well, peculiar aspects of the count’s life. The count never seems to eat, he sleeps during the day, keep Johnathan up all night with daring tales of battles long past and he has no servants. He does have three vampress’ in his basement, like a boss, who are easily aroused by young blood and he has an exquisite library.

     During his stay at Dracula’s castle, Harker starts to realize he is a prisoner and discovers strange things about the count, like his despising of Harker looking into a mirror, claiming disgust at such vanity, clearly a brilliant foreshadow, but also a dig at the 1800’s culture of beauty above all.

     One night, Johnathan is awoken by the vampires coming towards him, when they’re quickly shut down by the count, who has other plans for Harker and tosses them a fun size snack, or an infant, however you want to see it. Memo-why do reviewers never point out the interesting male homosexual subtext to this, but imply it all throughout Carmilla?

     We leave the castle and start to be introduced to Lucy and Mina, both of whom are pollyannaish as fuck. That in and of itself, is an understatement, because there are infants with better street smarts, but I digress. Reminder- we’re in the 1800’s, not 2018, so it works.

     At first life is normal for both Mina and Lucy, but things start to get weirder and weirder after a boat mysteriously makes it to shore with everyone dead, which is clearly a brilliant reference to The Lost World: Jurassic Park… Note-apparently this book predates that movie, interesting, must remember this.

     Lucy is the first to be turned into a vampire and is subsequently killed by Dr. Van Helsing, a brilliant mind, who is clearly one of the best Ahab’s ever put into lit.

     It doesn’t take long for the Scooby gang and Giles I mean, our protagonist to realize that Dracula is behind all this and the build up to the climax is truly fantastic suspense the likes few could emulate.

CHARACTERS

     It doesn’t take much to note that Bram is a very social human being. He has a nack for people, which is unusual for Gothic horror, given one of its traits is usually emphasis on landscapes and buildings.  He has taken great care to elucidate on each of the individuals quirks, mannerisms, demeanor, educational history and more, through brilliant prose. Stoker wasn’t fucking around here and it couldn’t be shown any better.

     Each character is truly different in how they engage each other and how they come to their conclusions throughout this gem of a novel.

     My two personal favorite characters are Dracula and Van Helsing and love how well they’re written and brought to life. Van Helsing is clearly the old guard, his speech is archaic as opposed to the younger characters in the book. He is wisen, he is experienced, he has seen all the offerings life has to give and has lived to tell the tale. Dracula is similar in this regard, but they’re still vastly different characters. Almost like Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis. The best dialogue easily belong to these two. Although, I appreciate Renfeild, for the seemingly satirical take on Psychology at the time that he represents and at the same time how he is a subtle dig on people following trends before growing bored of them as a form of insanity, vs chasing your passions, regardless of what people think.

     The only really bad thing is in regards to character arcs and how easily some characters switch gears in their beliefs of wampires. Some need little convincing, or it seemed that way and the only real growth by the end is Mina, in my mind.

     Despite that small bit of criticism, everything else is on point.

PROSE

     Wonderful, beautifully written and very picturesque. It is written in a more modern prose than most novels of its age and this was clearly intentional from the getgo. It also helps us with understanding characters, since Van Helsing is older and speaks in a way more reminiscent of the style of the times. Bram doesn’t just stop there, though, he adds a bunch of fun Easter eggs through out, you need to find them, but they’re there and fun to see the references to old stories and science.

     Bram likes to refer to Dracula unspecificly at times as Him and He and It. The most peculiar part about it, is that it would otherwise be grammatically incorrect, if not for character building prior to its use. Only one other mention gets this treatment that is God himself, because it is grammatically correct. This suggest that it was intentionally done and subtly builds Dracula up to being a God himself, but in the reserve, almost like Dracula is a different take on Lucifer.

     It wouldn’t be an understatement to refer to him as the Shakespeare of the Gothic horror novel.

 

THEMES AND SUBTEXT

     In 121 years, I am sure a lot has been found. Some people see it as an analogy for immigration, for sexuality and the social mores at the time whilst others see it as just an adventure book.

     A lot of critics of the day didn’t quite appreciate the modernity of the story, especially featuring typewriters, among other items. One could argue that the subtext of the younger generation vs the older generations are too hard to ignore, especially when you factor in the detraction for being modern and I wouldn’t refute that idea, it is a valid take away.

     I personally think, the immigration aspect, is only a fraction of the take away that Bram most likely, subconsciously meant.

     One of Bram’s earlier works was about a young immigrant, who works at a theater and is married to a faithful wife, when they immigrate to London so the man can get a better job. He becomes paranoid of his wife’s infidelity, which would have been a bigger no no then, then it ever was.  It ends with him killing his wife.

     Now, what could that have to do with Dracula? Well, some of that book is autobiographical. Bram, who worked at a theater, immigrated with his wife to London, seeking better work. The only difference is his wife, as far as we know, wasn’t unfaithful, nor did Bram kill his wife. Given this aspect, it is tough to ignore that Dracula is really a fish out of water story, with Dracula as analogous to Bram himself and representative of his fears of leaving his home country, moving to London and being an outsider. Much like Bram showcased his knowledge of multiple topics through prose, such as chemistry, philosophy, science and psychology, so too, did Dracula, who wanted to fit in. Bram, clearly being sociable, exhibited a desire to assimilate to the culture. It should also be noted that all of those who didn’t quite appreciate the book, happen to be hugely Anti-social, the most notable of which was H.P. Lovecraft, scoffing about the book being great because it had an editor. Lovecraft’s criticism is invalidated when you realize he was anti-social, but also, racist as hell. Clearly he couldn’t relate to Bram and as such, he didn’t enjoy the novel, which is a shame and quite the contradiction for an anti-social human. I also believe Lovecraft was jealous, because he couldn’t write half as well as Bram could and it was noticeable in his thoughts on the book.

     Regardless, I believe immigration is the right take away from this, albeit, in a different context than most suppose it to be.

CONCLUSION

     Bram Stoker is one of the best writers to have ever lived. Despite minuite flaws, such as lack of character arc, some literary solipsism, since you have to be really well read to appreciate this deeper, I can’t help but see it as the near perfect novel it is. I took three pages of notes and still feel this review to be too short, as there is so much more that can still be said on this book after 121 years. It stood the test of time because it really is the best of the genre and no one has come close, not even Stephen King himself, to beating Bram as best horror writer ever.

     This is one of the few books that you can finish and desire to read again, right away. It is more than a novel, it is an experience. Older reviews from the time, point out its gory nature, but it isn’t there. They imagined it because Bram was a genius in how he wrote. Much like Halloween, the 1978 original, you only think it was a blood bath, the reality is so more was left to be imagined.

     The only suitable score for this book is

10 stars out of 5.

———-
Minor corrections to the text, 11th OCT 2018 9:18 pm

Kageoween: Carmilla Book Review

INTRODUCTION
     Carmilla is one of the earliest vampire stories and the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula, apparently. Besides this, the only other known source for vampire mythos prior to Dracula is Varney the Vampire, a penny dreadful, which was sold on the streets for a penny back in the 1800’s.

     Much has been said about this novel, mostly the balls on J. Sheridan LeFanu, for adding Sappho eroticism in a time frame when such would have been on par with child molesting today.

     So, what does it come off as in 2018 and is it really any good? The answer, probably won’t surprise you!

STORY
     A young woman lives with a family when strange occurrences start to, well, occur, leading to a less than suspenseful build up to the climax of wow, vampire.

PROSE
     The prose has moments of sheer beauty throughout its page. If written in a modern voice, I think the story would fail even more. Part of the charm is that 1800’s style narration with beautiful prose in some places and misplaced telling aspects that could of be written better.

CHARACTERS
     The characters are mostly shallow, but still enough to get an idea for their personalities. No one character really sticks out in my mind, except for the father of the young woman who is friends with the vampress title character. He is a weird scientist of sorts and I don’t mean a literal scientist, I mean, he looks for the simplest explanation of a situation, but in the same breathe is glad that it wasn’t witches. I like this weird, juxtaposition between science and superstition. The original inspiration for Van Helsing is also present, but he isn’t as developed as he is in Dracula, but you can see where the inspiration came from, but it was less homage and more a “Hold my beer” moment, as Bram Stoker showcased he could do it better.

SUBTEXT
     Unlike other reviewers, most of whom are also male, I don’t find lesbianism to be a subtext of this book. I think it is inferred by men with an inkling of homoeroticism for other men, who have projected their desires on two characters.

     I know Vampires are known for their sensual nature, but they’re predators mostly, they’re also dead, thus they really don’t have a sexuality at all. I also find it weird that these same reviewers never spot male homosexual subtext in Dracula or other novels about vampires. Interview with the Vampire comes to mind with blatant male homoerotism, of which no one ever points out or holds up in esteem. The homosexuality is especially noticeable in the movie of Interview with the Vampire, where the sexual ambiguity between Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise is so thick, you could cut the fuckin thing with a knife. Just like this book, 90’s male homosexuality would have been considered loathsome and horrible, but no praise for pushing the envelope there.

CONCLUSION
     This book is really short and sparse of form, while giving some of the future tropes for the vampire mythos that we either all know and love or find to be horrible clichés. I wouldn’t say Bram Stoker was so much inspired by it, as being a flat out plagiarist on quite a bit, while extrapolating with better fleshed out characters, subtext and themes. Ironically, Bram himself would later be plagiarized with Nosferatu, a lawsuit ensued which he would win, even though he really had no grounds, notwithstanding his own plagiarism. Still, the story is good, the prose is decent and while the lesbian subtext is inferred by Horny men, the book still has a lot going for it and is well worth picking up.

3 out of 5 stars.